Back
Register for SMS Alerts
or enter your details manually below...
First Name:
Last Name:
Email:
Password:
Hometown:
Birthday:
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.
Existing users
Email
Password
Sorry, we couldn't find those details.
Enter Email
Sorry, we couldn't find that email.

EU states launch controversial police hunt for irregular migrants

Mos Maiorum is to be coordinated by the Italian Ministry of the Interior's Central Directorate for Immigration and Border Police, in “close cooperation” with the EU's border control agency Front

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
13 October 2014, 9:31pm
According to a report on the German website Heise, the focus of the operation will be transport hubs – railway stations, motorways, roads and airports – and will involve thousands of officers.
According to a report on the German website Heise, the focus of the operation will be transport hubs – railway stations, motorways, roads and airports – and will involve thousands of officers.
A massive police operation dubbed ‘Mos Maiorum’ was launched by 25 European countries on Monday to detect, detain and possibly deport tens-of-thousands of so-called “irregular” migrants.

During the 14-day Operation Mos Maiorum, some 20,000 police officers will stake out border crossings, railway stations, bus depots, and highways throughout Europe to apprehend so-called irregular migrants – people living without permission.

The operation is the brainchild of the Italian presidency of the European Council.

No clear data exist on the number of irregular migrants in the European Union, but unofficial estimates range between 150,000 to 450,000 people.

Mos Maiorum is to be coordinated by the Italian Ministry of the Interior's Central Directorate for Immigration and Border Police, in “close cooperation” with the EU's border control agency Frontex. “The agency was invited by the Italian Presidency to provide support to the operation in the area of risk analysis. This means that the agency will only provide the Italian Presidency with statistics and data analysis of the migratory flows at external borders of the European Union,” Frontex said.

Frontex said the operation was not a border control operation but ‘intra-Schengen’ and of ‘police cooperation’ nature, which are not within the mandate of Frontex.

Currently it is unknown which member states have chosen to participate, but previous operations have involved the majority of member states.

According to a report on the German website Heise, the focus of the operation will be transport hubs – railway stations, motorways, roads and airports – and will involve thousands of officers.

The paper circulated to Member States' delegations in the Council outlined the main goals:
  • Apprehend irregular migrants and gather relevant information for intelligence and investigative purposes;
  • Identify, prosecute and disrupt organised crime groups;
  • Give a clear and updated situation picture concerning the operational area, modus operandi, main trends and possible rapid changes in these aspects;
  • Consolidate joint measures to achieve an impact on illegal immigration (border checks and border surveillance activities);
  • Carry out (based on the outcomes of the risk analysis), control along the main routes of illegal immigration on the main routes followed by illegal migrant networks (within the Schengen Area and at the external borders);
  • Collect and analyse information related to the so-called secondary movement.


Civil rights NGO Statewatch said that to member states, “secondary movement” – migrants and asylum-seekers travelling to another country within the EU beyond the one in which they arrived – generates interest in acquiring more intelligence, which is why the Eurodac database of irregular migrants' and asylum-seekers' fingerprints is used.

"During joint operations Member States' police and border officers may go about their work as usual. The only difference to normal operations would be the submission of data on those apprehended to the organisation coordinating the operation – in this case the Italian Ministry of the Interior and Frontex," a Statewatch analysis reads.

"This data is used to create 'a holistic view of illegal immigration flows for the entire internal Schengen space' - therefore allowing for more efficient planning at EU level."

The operation preceding Mos Maiorum was 'Aerodromos', organised by the Greek Presidency of the Council, which targeted 39 airports across the EU. Prior to Aerodromos was Perkunas, organised by the Lithuanian Presidency, during which apprehensions made by police and border forces from 25 states aimed at “identifying the link between illegal EU external border crossings and secondary movements of irregular migrants.” A total of 10,459 irregular migrants were “intercepted” during the operation.

Aphrodite, an operation which took place during October and November 2012, saw 5,298 individuals apprehended. A long-standing project initiated by Austria and Hungary, FIMATHU, has led to the apprehension of thousands more undocumented migrants.

‘Inhumane’

EU officials say the operation is needed to combat human-smuggling rings and to gather information on smuggling routes. Rights groups, meanwhile, have denounced Mos Maiorum – a Latin term describing the unwritten code of laws and conduct in ancient Roman times – as inhumane.

These migrants are, in most cases, people who escaped dangerous homelands and are searching for safe and dignified living conditions, according to Karl Kopp, director of European affairs at ProAsyl, a German non-profit foundation, who spoke to Al Jazeera.

“Mos Maiorum is an anti-refugee operation,” said Kopp. “Refugees are a target of this operation, let’s be clear.”

Kopp said refugees often turn to smuggling networks because lawful, regulated entry paths to and inside Europe’s Schengen Area are hard to come by. Many migrants come to Schengen because it is the safest nearby region and offers economic security.

According to Kopp, a massive police operation such as Mos Maiorum is part of the EU’s deterrence policy against refugees, and it is a wrong signal in a situation that requires solidarity and humanity.

During last year’s operation, 1,606 migrants were caught inside Germany, the second-largest number of interceptions among countries that took part. Italy was first with 4,800 people arrested.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.